What to do for obsessions
Obsessions or strong fears, urges, bad thoughts or pictures can be hard to shrink. Avoiding them or doing compulsions lets them grow bigger or stronger. To shrink them, you have them on purpose so they become boring. This is called facing your fear, getting used to them or doing an exposure. You learn how to do this by working with a professional who helps you learn how to do a helpful exposure.
Don’t give in or don’t give in all the way: Do Exposures
Some kids with OCD fix something until it feels “just right.” That’s called doing the compulsion. Fixing these things doesn’t make sense, so you practice tricks during practices. These practices are called exposures.
Tricks include: don’t fix it at all, fix it a little, or wait to fix it. You might fix it differently or in a different order. So, if you have to fix all your toys so they are in their “right” spots, you might not do that or mess it up just a little if the feeling is strong. By practicing that over and over until it’s boring, you get used to the “I have to fix it” obsession or feeling. Now you don’t have to “fix it” anymore!
Some young people fear or obsess that they will be dirty or covered with germs if they don’t wash their hands or body, even when their parents say they don’t need to. So, you don’t do the compulsion, which means don’t wash … if it’s easy. If the fear is strong, you might wash a little less, wait to wash or only wipe with a towel. By practicing this many times the obsession becomes less and your fear shrinks.
Some fear brains create bad or terrible thoughts or pictures, and they won’t go away for a long time, making one feel terrible. It’s hard to do a real life exposure sometimes, so you may slowly and carefully get used to them by using your imagination. That’s called Imaginal Exposure.
Stay calm and accept the garbage in your brain
It’s important to remember that, in anxiety, the fear brain turns on accidentally. This means thoughts, feelings and pictures from the fear brain are not real, not helpful and don’t tell the truth. These accidents are lies, like garbage in your brain. Know when they are happening, but also know you don’t need to listen. Sometimes thoughts, feeling and pictures from your fear brain are loud and painful, and just won’t go away. At these times you can accept or be aware of them, say hello to them and get busy.
Keep on playing
If you can, keep doing what you need to be doing. It’s just like accepting pain when you are playing and you scrape your knee: Even if it hurts, you say “Ouch!”—and then you keep on playing.